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Sweat drugs test negates need for full toxicology examinations

Portable device can detect a multitude of drugs simultaneously in under ten minutes

Mortuary staff in Sheffield are using a revolutionary new fingertip-based drug screening system to carry out a fast and non-invasive test on the deceased.

It works by analysing sweat deposits that remain on the fingertips – even after death - and takes just five seconds to collect a sample onto a small, disposable drug-screening cartridge.

A portable reader analyses samples taken within the post-mortem suite, providing test results for cocaine, opiates, cannabis and amphetamines simultaneously in under ten minutes.

The system is expected to save time and money as it could remove the need to carry out extra toxicology tests.

“Having a simple, non-invasive and rapid fingertip drug screen is already proving a valuable source of additional information, giving the Coroner’s Office important early intelligence on potential drug use,” said Maxine Coe, Mortuary Manager at the Sheffield Medico-Legal Centre.

“Our trials of the Intelligent Fingerprinting system showed that it’s very easy and quick to use, saves time and allows us to make smarter decisions about where further (potentially expensive) toxicology tests may or may not be required,” added Ms Coe.

A spokesman for HM Coroner for South Yorkshire (West) District, added: “The testing so far has suggested that this type of device will be a really useful tool for early toxicology indication, albeit not intended to be evidential. It should alert us to the cases that need to be subject to full toxicology, and in some cases, may obviate the need for any toxicology tests at all.”

The system is currently being marketed to the criminal justice arena, drug rehabilitation services, offender management, workplace and occupational health services.

The technique has potential for many other uses including healthcare diagnostics and homeland security applications.

Last year HM Senior Coroner for Staffordshire (South) also adopted the system.